The fashion industry has long been operating in a cyclically inefficient and anti-creative way. Issues like waste, early discounts, power imbalances and a suboptimal, wholesale-controlled calendar hurt brands at every level, as well as consumers.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic prompted lockdowns around the world in early 2020, the industry was put on pause. In response, two initiatives, Forum and the BoF-facilitated Rewiring Fashion, emerged to make this period one of retrospection and discussion in hopes of bringing about systematic change.
In the latest episode of Inside Fashion, which features a conversation from VOICES 2020, BoF’s Imran Amed sits down with Van Noten, as well as Anya Hindmarch and Stefano Martinetto, co-founder and chief executive of Tomorrow London to discuss the lessons the industry has learned during the pandemic and how that new perspective will shape its future.
Candour has never been one of the industry’s priorities or strengths, which has hampered progress in the past. Hindmarch emphasises that there is a power to coming together. “You solve problems by not just thinking about yourself but collaborating as an industry,” she said.
Thanks to the rise of e-commerce and the convenience economy, storytelling is more important than ever for luxury brands. “Just showing clothes and that’s it, forget it. That’s not going to work anymore… I think we have to offer different things,” said Van Noten. “We have to tell a story to show why the clothes are more expensive than high street labels, you have to give the whole package of support to people who come to the store.”
Wholesale retail is changing — hopefully, to allow more space for creativity and development of strong products. Hindmarch thinks that wholesalers still have an important, localised role that helps designers connect with their buyers in a personal way. Martinetto believes shifts are for the better. He said: “The notion that wholesale is dying is most appropriately defined as ‘bad wholesale is dying.’”
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The BoF Podcast: Dries Van Noten on Making Retail Meaningful in the Pandemic